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The Girl on a Train theatre review: A gripping and intense show performed by a talented cast

PUBLISHED: 14:29 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:33 02 July 2019

Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Manuel Harlan

The stage adaption of Paula Hawkin's novel The Girl on a Train arrived at Norwich Theatre Royal last night to deliver the perfect evening of mystery.

Oliver Farnwell, as Scott Hipwell, and Samantha Womack, as Rachel Watson, in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel HarlanOliver Farnwell, as Scott Hipwell, and Samantha Womack, as Rachel Watson, in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Starring Samantha Womack, best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in Eastenders, and Oliver Farnworth, best known for playing Andy Carver in Coronation Street, The Girl on a Train is the story of a young woman called Rachel Watson who longs for a different life.

Her only escape is the perfect couple she watches through the train window every day who are happy and in love - or so it appears. When Rachel learns that the woman she's been secretly watching has suddenly disappeared, she finds herself as a witness and even a suspect in a thrilling mystery where she faces even bigger revelations than she could ever have anticipated.

Adapted from Paula Hawkins' novel, which was an international phenomenon selling over twenty million copies worldwide, the stage show sees the story taking on another form since 2016's cinematic interpretation starring Emily Blunt.

Having seen mixed reviews about the show, and personally feeling that the film hadn't matched the calibre of the book either, I was pretty apprehensive upon arriving at the theatre last night.

Naeem Hayat, as Kamal Abdic, and Kirsty Oswald, as Megan Hipwell, in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel HarlanNaeem Hayat, as Kamal Abdic, and Kirsty Oswald, as Megan Hipwell, in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel Harlan

How they were going to pull off a story that is largely centred around being on a train was a mystery to me and perhaps the element that I was most looking forward to seeing.

Without giving too much away, they managed it spectacularly with some clever staging, lighting and sound effects.

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Samantha Womack's performance as Rachel was really engaging, although it seemed to become slightly more polished as the show progressed. There was barely a moment that she wasn't on stage, as is expected from the protagonist, yet she never broke from character - even when sets were being moved around.

Samantha Womack, as Rachel Watson, and Adam Jackson-Smith, as Tom Watson, in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel HarlanSamantha Womack, as Rachel Watson, and Adam Jackson-Smith, as Tom Watson, in The Girl on a Train. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Swapping TV studios for stage, and with no re-takes now possible, her commitment, execution and dedication to the role was extremely admirable. Her supporting cast were equally as accomplished, helping to build tension and unease as the mystery of Megan Hipwell's disappearance unfolded.

The lighting and staging during the flashbacks were really sophisticated and well considered, enabling the audience to visualise past events and Rachel's gradual recollection of memories.

The show could very easily have been too heavy with the story discussing themes like loneliness, obsession, violence and substance abuse. The writers managed to intersperse some very well placed humour throughout that just lifted the mood enough without creating a mockery of what are some very real issues.

The nearly two hour production, which was gripping and intense show performed by a talented cast, flew by which is always a great sign.

Director Anthony Banks has done a great job with this show and it's well worth seeing if like me you were disappointed by the film, you have read the book or if you just love a good mystery/thriller.

- The Girl on a Train runs at Norwich Theatre Royal until July 6

- Tickets to the show are available for £10 - £33.50 from the Norwich Theatre Royal website

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